“After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.””
Conditions have been perfect. Not too cold. Humid. Foggy. Several days in a row have brought exactly what is needed to produce a wonderful and much loved phenomenon.
It’s Rime Time!
Hoarfrost is formed when water vapour freezes instantly (called sublimation) and sticks to anything cold – fences. Tree branches. Vehicles. Hoarfrost paints the world white and wonderful!
But rime is a kind of frost formed when fog freezes to cold surfaces. It can freeze in different directions, depending on air movement at the time of development. It can form wild feathers of frost in elongated clumps. And if it is foggy for several nights in a row, and if wind hasn’t blown it off in a tinkling symphony of broken glass, and if atmospheric conditions are just right, you get layer growing upon layer in absolutely stunning patterns.
You have to see it to believe it.
It is a winter wonderland like no other, rivalling any picture postcard – pure magic.
And what, you may ask, does that have to do with the strange detail from the Christmas story quoted from the book of Mathew?
I’m so glad you asked.
See, we read this story from our own pout in history. We know the ending. We understand why Jesus was born in a stable, and why He was to be found among the ordinary folk and not in a palace. It all makes sense to us.
Mary and Joseph were living it out in real time. To be honest, they must have been sorely perplexed.
First Mary gets mysteriously pregnant, and they are told by an extraterrestrial being that she is going to give birth to God.
Then, they get a census card in the mail and have to make a big and expensive trip to a distant town to register.
Odd timing, Mary my love. You’re not going to like this….
Then, they get there and don’t even have a place to stay.
Seriously, God? This is the plan?
Then the baby comes and they settle in to look after Him. Men from the East find them and give them cool gifts – how interesting! – and one night, boom! They get prodded to flee in the middle of the night because a raving lunatic for a king has decided to kill all the boys in Bethlehem to protect his hold on the throne.
Um, God? What are You doing? Do You know what You are doing? This is all a bit much…
Ever felt like that?
Like everything is spinning out of control and you’d like to get off the merry-go-round?
Enter the lesson of Rime Time.
See, this gorgeous phenomenon only occurs in the dark. In the cold. In the obscurity and confusion and limited visibility of fog. It is only after enduring repeated cycles of hardship and chaos that the beauty is born.
Are you hearing this, heavy hearts?
Sometimes God allows some rough patches – some freezing temperatures. Some heavy fog. Some moments of disillusionment and darkness and fear and disappointment. because it is only when we cannot see that we need the light of the world. It is only when we are in those deep, dark, broken places that our souls can be laced with beauty.
Sometimes, when we can’t see a step ahead, when the path is obscured and dark, when everything feels heavy with the weight of pain and grief, we are being beautified.
Friend, it may be rime time!
Mary and Joseph are famous the world over because of the beauty of their story. But do remember that they had times of seeming failure and disappointment and disillusionment and obscurity, when their story didn’t make sense, when it seemed God was far away or just plain forgetful. Yet they were a part of the greatest story ever told!
Hang on to the hope of Christmas with me?
Father, it is oddly reassuring to remember that even Mary and Joseph must have had times of worry and turmoil and doubt. Remind us that when we are facing times of darkness or struggle that You have promised to work all things for our good. Amen.